Thursday, February 25, 2010
Human pheromones - androstenol activates hypothalamus in women.
There is continuing debate over whether, and to what extent, we humans (like other mammals) might use body odors secreted from our skin in signaling sexual attraction, aggression, submission, etc. Several progesterone derivatives have been shown to activate regions of the thalamus and hypothalamus, and the activations are differentiated with respect to sex and sexual orientation of the smeller in relation to the respective compounds. Slavic et al. asked whether compounds actually released by our bodies have pheromone properties, and focused on highly volatile androstenol, which is found (primarily in males), in sweat, urine, plasma and saliva. They found that smelling androstenol (unlike several common odors) causes activation of a portion of the hypothalamus in women that animal data suggests mediates pheromone triggered mating behavior. (The article is open access, and you can see the brain imaging data there.)